We all know that trade shows and the entire industry were hit hard by the pandemic. The good news is that recently, many of the shows we have attended are at – or near – capacity. This is a great sign that the world is beginning to return to normal. People are more open to conducting meaningful, in-person business and activities.
As we traversed shut downs, the virtualization of events, a slow return to live shows, and now a swing back to full capacity, there is a key part that we recognize as one of the most important aspects of representing your business and brand. It all comes down to a quality presence.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward – Why Quality Counts at Trade Shows.
More attendance should never mean less quality. To draw some parallels, would you:
- Prepare a fancy holiday meal with plastic cutlery?
- Attend a class reunion in your most beat-up car?
- Wear a dated, thread-worn suit to a series of interviews?
- Or, wear workout clothes just because you have multiple events in one day?
We’re assuming your answer to all of these questions above would be a resounding “no”. The decline of trade show presence is behind us. The last thing businesses should do is scramble to get more things rather than good things for their exhibits.
As in the examples above, this is not the time to be shabby, spread your resources thin, or invest in lots of cheap giveaways to have on hand. This is the time to think about successful deal making, and strategizing with your company’s decision makers about how to leverage your resources for a quality presence at shows you plan on attending.
How to Maintain A Quality Trade Show Presence within your Budget
Every company has a different budget for trade shows. There is no right or wrong amount to spend for these kinds of events. Clearly, larger corporations with deep pockets have a slight advantage, but that doesn’t make smaller businesses obsolete on the trade show floor.
So, assuming you have a set budget, here are some ways to create a quality presence within your business’ means.
- Choose fewer shows. Would you rather throw a mediocre party for every holiday throughout the year, or one dazzling, memorable blowout of a party? We choose the latter, and the same goes for shows. Maintaining a strong presence may mean drilling down to one show that best fits your industry and goals while forgoing others.
- Schedule meetings ahead of time. Pre-show lists exist for a reason. When you get your hands on these, start networking as early as possible. Reach out to the decision makers you want to meet, and schedule time to meet with them either at your exhibit or somewhere nice in the city in which the show is being held. Make it a memorable encounter by putting your best foot forward and pitching them with ideas suited specifically to fit their needs.
- Location, location, location. Even a small, well-designed space in the right location can outperform the largest companies at the tradeshow you are attending. Talk to the show managers to find your ideal location, which generally should be in well-trafficked areas with plenty of visibility.
- Don’t go cheap. At a trade show, you encounter companies with major “wow” factors, and others that aren’t even worth a glance. Most companies will probably fall somewhere in between. You want to ensure that you are designing an environment that is a distinct reflection of your brand, product, and services. You don’t have an “off the shelf” brand, so why would you want a pre-made structure that follows the same design as other companies? Trade shows are one of your biggest marketing investments of the year, so it is always better to have a smaller footprint with a more impactful experience than devaluing your brand with a cheap design.
- Giveaways shouldn’t be throw-aways. This is a trade show habit that is going to be a hard one to get rid of. However, it is slowly being acknowledged that the days of shipping 5,000 10 cent pens to a show are over. Instead, focus on a few quality items to give to real potential customers. Not everyone at the show needs a pen. The truth is the majority of attendees probably won’t become your customer, and definitely not because of a pen. Put your money where it matters, and quality counts.
- Figure out what your audience is craving. Trade shows are a part of marketing. A cornerstone of marketing is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. No matter what industry you are in, research what your potential audience craves, and what they are looking for. How can you showcase your product in a light that demonstrates how it will benefit them? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you decide on any demonstrations or add-ons.
- Don’t staff your space with zombies. We’ve been in the business a long time, and we’ve seen it all. Nothing is worse than when an exhibit space is full… but only with company representatives who seem bored out of their minds. You’ll save money – and time – by bringing a few of the best members of your team. Also, always be sure to have on hand key decision makers who can make on-the-spot decisions for your company. These staffers should be the ones who know how to network, leave a good impression, and make memorable connections. The life and reputation of your brand directly correlates to the enthusiasm and interest of your staff representation.
We are thrilled to see the trade show business back to where it started before 2020 rocked us all to the core. As a business, we rolled with the punches, adapted, and executed as necessary to get back to where we are today.
Now more than ever, executives and all trade show attendees are craving meaningful connection after a number of years sitting behind a computer, conducting business virtually, in some cases nearly all the time. We have heard from many how nice it is to be back to traveling, shaking hands, and meeting new people – in real life. It is up to you as a business to put your best foot forward at every opportunity!